by RENALDO DORSETT
Alex Cooper didn’t hear his name called during the three days of the NFL Draft, but the Eleuthera native didn’t have to wait very long after to learn of his new opportunity to make an NFL roster.
Cooper was one of 15 players signed as an undrafted college free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.
Undrafted players made up 29 percent of NFL rosters last season and within the Bengals organisation, six players were undrafted free agents All-Pro linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
The Bengals drafted seven players in this year’s draft to bring their roster total to 77, 13 shy of the 90 needed headed into training camp.
The team will not officially release the complete list of signees until the players undergo team physicals.
Following his stellar senior season with the Houston Cougars, Cooper garnered the attention of severl NFL teams including the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders.
After the pro day he was invited to the Texans’ local prospect day and also visited the Raiders.
Cooper was one of 19 members of the Cougars’ programme to work out for representatives from 31 NFL franchises and one CFL franchise .
The session featured measurements, bench press and jumps in the Elmer Redd Sports Performance Center in Houston, Texas.
Cooper measured 6’ 3” and 300 pounds with a hand size of 10 3/8”, 34” arms , and an 82 1/2” wingspan. He tested a 28” vertical, broad jump of 8’ 8”, completed the 40 yard dash in 5.24 secs, the three cone drill in 7.7 secs and completed 23 reps of the bench press at 225 pounds.
The Eleuthera native reportedly graded out at 81 percent as he played 1,046 snaps on offence , allowed a single sack and averaged 4.8 knockdown blocks per game
He ended his senior season when the No.14 ranked Cougars won 38-24 over the No.9 Florida State Seminoles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia on New Year’s Eve.
The Cougars finished 13-1, 7-1 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to win the conference under first year head coach Tom Herman. Cooper, was a team co-captain and has started every game for the Cougars this season at right tackle.
One of the anchors on an offensive line which powered the high scoring Cougars’ offence, Cooper was named All-AAC and Phil Steele’s AAC Second Team selections. Cooper started 25 straight games on the Cougars line at various positions including both tackle spots and right guard. Cooper and his line mates lead a Houston team that is 14th nationally in rushing offence at 240.1 yards per game. Houston’s leader along the line with 892 snaps, Cooper has not allowed a single sack this season and just eight quarterback pressures.
Prior to the season, he had already completed his undergraduate degree and was named to the 2015 Athlon Sports Preseason AAC Third Team.
Cooper was initially recruited as defensive lineman, but enjoyed the best season of his career last year when he shifted his focus from trying to sack the quarterback to protecting him instead.
A switch from the defensive to the offensive side of the ball became a major move in the right direction following his redshirt freshman season.
After a redshirt season, he moved to the offensive lineman prior to the start of fall practice and also provided depth on the offensive line as a member of the jumbo package.
As a redshirt sophomore he played in 12 games with one start as a tight end in the team’s jumbo formation and was also a member of Houston’s field goal team. He finished the year with 69 snaps on the offensive line.
In his redshirt junior season he started all 13 games during the season at right tackle and helped the Houston offence gain 2,194 yards on the ground for 4.8 yards per rush and 26 rushing touchdowns in those 12 games.
He made the transition from a high school basketball standout to a defensive lineman, worked his way into a starting role at right tackle in just over two years. He was one of three new players on the offensive line joining seniors centre Bryce Redman and guard Rowfy Harper.
He initially earned the spot when veteran tackle Zach Johnson tore his ACL on the final day of spring practice.
When he moved to Houston as a member of the Frank Rutherford Development Programme, Cooper was a highly touted basketball recruit at Second Baptist High School.
In his senior season he earned 4A All-District honours on the court, and on the gridiron he played both ways, tallying five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown on offence and racking up 13 sacks and two fumble recoveries on defence.
Cooper chose Houston over Baylor, Kansas State, Rice and SMU.